Ringwild, Fortress of the Dead

It had been such a good day.

Work on the guard towers was nearing completion. The mechanics were busy preparing traps for the next inevitable goblin invasion. The windmills were creaking in the crisp mountain air, the crops were in full bloom, and food and ale were plentiful. The marksdwarves complained good-naturedly about having to practice in the sun, but the glare and heat were far preferable to the horrors of cave adaptation. From the barracks came the clanking and grunting of the melee squad honing their skills.

A sudden goblin attack had left the fort wary, and several dwarves had been found in their beds, bloodless and desiccated. A vampire was on the loose somewhere, but it had yet to slip up.

Ringwild’s walls were strong. Its forges were hot, its craftsmen were legend, its halls were vast and opulent. The Windy Grains knew of these treasures, of the riches to be had. And so they came.

The smell of death on the air.

The horror of fifty corpses, trudging in unison towards the walls.

The shrieks of the goblin ambush as they were torn to shreds by rotting hands.

The shouts of dwarven panic as they attempted to close up the walls.

The masons were the first to fall. Fearlessly running to the open wall, hauling stones, attempting to shore up the open wall. Bolts whizzed past them, lodging uselessly in shambling flesh. Decaying hands, ripping, tearing, striking.

The melee squad charged forward. Two corpses fell, three, four, and then the horde was upon them. Dwarf after dwarf, ripped apart, lives cut short at the hands of the undead.

The rest of the fort was soon among the ranks of the dead, raised back into unholy motion by dark powers.

Except one.

He still stood in the main courtyard, axe flashing left to slice off a leg, right to sever an arm, back, forth, an impenetrable wall of razor-sharp iron. He darted from zombie to zombie, reducing the undead to piles of butchered meat. To Ringwild, he was Nomald Cobaltseasons, the elderly, battle-scarred master of the axe.

For months he fought the undead, searching for the invisible masters of the rotting army, to no avail. He fought without tire, without food, and without drink, single-mindledy crushing every undead abomination in his view, seemingly blind to their inevitable reanimation moments later.

Until, one day, he stopped. He hadn’t eaten, hadn’t drank, hadn’t laid down for months.

He dropped his axe.

He wandered, thirsty, back into the halls of Ringwild, but the stocks of alcohol did not beckon him.

He passed the great dining room, with its barrels filled to the brim with the feasts of master chefs, but did not slow.

Nomald walked (slower, now, than before) on the familiar smooth rock towards the masonry, ignoring the piles of furniture that had never been used, would never be used…

And, as the spirits of his restless comrades swirled around the room, he began to carve, slowly, painstakingly, a coffin, and a large slab of rock.

He dragged them both to the center hall of Ringwild; once the Stronghold of the Sabres of Helping, now the Slaughterhouse of the Windy Grains.

He took up hammer and chisel with shaking hands, carved the slab as best he could. Four hundred thirty-two years of life, and not a single engraving to his name.

And, with a final effort, he hauled himself into his coffin. He closed his eyes, and waited for the wailing spirits to end the long, bloody history of Nomald Cobaltseasons, known to the world as Das Clincheddreamy: the Unkempt Word of Splashes, murderer of five dwarves in Ringwild and thousands more across the world; vampire.

Written by Vondre



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RustBeard the One-Armed

I was still learning how to make an army, so I simply loaded up on traps and worked on training soldiers and creating weapons as I went. Everything seemed to be working. Occasionally kobolds attacked, but the traps always kicked their asses, so I felt there was time.

Then one smart kobold learned to disarm traps.

The dwarves raised the alarm and ran to the armory, but I didn’t have enough weapons and armor for them all. Armed with chair legs, hot pokers, and anything else they could find, the dwarves bravely ran out to face their invaders. The kobolds, however, broke into two parties and sent a second smaller party down to raid our supplies and steal our weapons, going behind the dwarves’ backs with the hope of mounting a surprise attack.

One unlucky dwarf armed with a table leg was guarding the food. The first kobold to arrive stabbed him with a knife. He struck the beast, sending it screaming into a wall. During this minor distraction three kobolds snuck up on him, pinned him down, then cut off his arm before leaving him to die. The dwarf was pissed as he watched them load up their sacks and walk away. He used some muslin to tourniquet off his arm, then went for vengeance.

Armed only with his severed arm, he ambushed the cocky kobolds, bashing one of their skulls in. The Kobolds wheeled back in shock, slashing his legs. The Dwarf disarmed one kobold by making him stab the knife through the dismembered arm, then stabbed the kobold with the knife-arm until he died. The remaining kobold screamed in panic and tried to flee, but the dwarf tacked him down and found him cowering under a wagon.Dwarf_vs_Kobold_by_MK01 modifiedAll that was left was a smear of blood when that dwarf was done with the kobolds. The dwarf skinned all three, then took the skins to be tanned, feeding the corpses to the dogs.

After that he became known RustBeard the One-armed. As soon as the militia was founded he beat the crap out of the captain I chose, then became captain on his own and proceeded to kick serious kobold ass for the rest of his life. Not a single kobold who ventured near our land ever survived again.

Written by Kitsuneae

Illustrated by MK01

One Stands Alone

“Uncle! Uncle! Did you hear?” cried the young dwarf, running down the hall. “Uncle Lolor, did you hear? The count is rearranging the military. He’s putting the best into the Guards and giving them adamantine!”
“Yes, I had heard that,” replied Lolor Tusungdastot, militia captain of the Tin Keys and stalwart defender of the Dwarven Fortress of CityLions.
“Well, you’re the best, right?”
Lolor sighed. “Some say I’m a good fighter, yes.”
“So you’re in the Guards now?” asked the child.
“No, nephew, I am not. The Count was very apologetic. He said I’m too good. He needs me as a militia captain. He says I am an even better leader than I am a fighter. So, no. I am not a Guard.”
“You won’t get to wear adamantine?”
“No, I’m afraid not. The Guards are meant as shock troops. They are melee fighters. The militia is supposed to hang back and provide covering fire, maybe help mop up at the end, or serve as a last line of defense should the Guards fall. We aren’t meant to go toe to toe with goblins, and so we don’t need the protection of adamantine.” Lolor looked disappointed, though.
“But that’s not fair! You’re the best! You have more kills than anyone!”
“Oh, I just got lucky. In a melee, anything can happen. Even the best can die. You shouldn’t glorify warfare, Urist. Don’t look up to me, look up to your father. He is a true hero. He MADE that adamantine armor. A young dwaf should aspire to become a master craftsman, not a warrior.” Lolor was a humble dwarf. “A warrior’s life is wasted. ‘Hurry up and wait.’ Do you know what that means? It means, most of the time, a warrior is twiddling his thumbs, or hauling rock. I get the chance to be a hero maybe once a year. Your father comes home every night knowing he made something useful that very day. You sit around, you train, you sit around, you train, and then the call comes and you must run. Maybe to glory, maybe to your death. It is a hard life.”
“But all the women love a warrior, right? I mean, you must get tons of girls!” Urist asked gleefully.
“Young and stupid girls love a warrior. Women love a man like your father, who can provide for them, and who will be there for their children, and who will become a wonderful grandfather someday. What women wants a dead hero for a husband?”
Urist, looking bored with the now serious conversation, said, “Ah, you’re just bitter ’cause you didn’t get into the guards. When I’m a warrior, I’ll be a guard and kill trolls, and goblins, and dragons, and titans, and-”
“Captain! Captain! We need you! Please, sir, no one else is ready! everyone is changing their gear and heading to their new squads!” cried a young recruit running down the hall towards them. Lolor tried to remember his name, Meng, was it? He was in a different squad. He looked to be wearing spider silk pajamas.
“Slow down, lad. What is it?” asked Lolor, ignoring his young nephew, who continued to list the various monsters he would kill in the guards, “and unicorns, and, uh, rutherers, and…”
“The Count has a bad feeling. He said the framerate is dropping!”
“The carpenters are working on wooden frames more slowly than normal? That is a bad sign. Carpenters are notoriously sensitive to the presence of large numbers of Goblins. But it could just be cats.”
“No, sir, the cats are all tied up!” the recruit looked worried.
“And the Kitten Watch Posts?” asked Lolor, beginning to feel worried himself.
“Kittens one and three reporting, sir, but Kitten Watch Post two is empty!”
“What? Did no one refill it with kittens after the last raid?” barked Lolor, now quite concerned.
“No! The Count is furious! He sent that miscreant animal handler Urist McRedshirt, you know, the one who likes to wear red shirts? He sent him out to fill it. He said he doesn’t even care if Urist gets killed, it will serve him right. But then he ordered the Guards out to watch over him, anyway.”
“The Count has a notoriously soft heart. So why are you here? I’m not in the Guards.” asked Lolor.
“That’s just it!” shouted the recruit, looking a bit wild eyed, “The guards are all down in the forge room picking out their new adamantine. The rest of the squads, no one knows where anyone is, everyone is confused trying to find their new barracks and equipment. You’re the only one in charge I could find!” shrieked the recruit, realizing he might be fighting alongside the famous Lolor Tusungdastot in his underwear.
“Well, it looks like you Pajama Fighters are fully equipped,” quipped Lolor.
“Sir?” asked the recruit.
“It’s a joke, son. Go put some clothes on. I’ll handle this. It’s not as if the Count is going to realize and admit he’s wrong to send McRedshirt out there right now, and wait until the squads are formed up.”
“You’re going out by yourself?” asked the recruit, fighting to hide his obvious relief.
“Oh, it’s probably nothing. Hoary Marmots or something messing with the carpenter’s heads and killing their frame rate. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re Lolor Tusungdastot! Of course you’ll be fine, sir! I’ll go put on clothes.” said the recruit, running off.
Lolor patted the shaft of his trusty steel battle axe, checked the string on his steel crossbow, and looked down at his nephew Urist, who was still listing monsters, “and Giant Cave Spiders, and Giant Moles, and Giant-”
“See? Hurry up and wait. Now I’m out into the rain and the sun, probably for nothing, but maybe to my death. Is that glorious?”
Young Urist looked up, awed. “Yes,” he said.
“Well I was wrong about you, then. You are a dumb young dwarf who will be perfect for the military,” sighed Lolor. “Now get back home, stay away from the outdoors for a while, okay?”
“Yes Uncle!” cried the child, running off to fight imaginary trolls.
Lolor strode quickly out the fort’s trap protected south sally-port, looking for the animal handler. Walking through the damp and foggy cloud forest thickly blanketing the high mountain valley that was home to the fortress of CityLions, Lolor quickly spotted the animal handler by his bright red shirt, and his entourage of mewling kittens and noisy young dogs, destined for war training.
“McRedshirt! Ho!” yelled Lolor, “Hold up, the Count has sent me out to protect you, he says he thinks there might be Goblins about.”

And that was when Lolor heard a throaty chuckle from behind a nearby tree. “Did you hear that, boys? Their fancy-pants Count thinks there might be Goblins about! Do you boys see any Goblins?” said a fearsome looking Goblin warrior, stepping out from his hiding spot.
Five more Goblins stepped out from hiding. “Uh, aren’t we Goblins, boss?” asked one of the ugly brutes.
“Oh for the love of… you idiots ruin everything. Just kill him,” barked the leader.

Lolor Tusungdastot, Militia Captain of the Tin Keys, stood alone in the center of a circle of six Goblin warriors. Lolor drew his Crossbow, but the Goblins were too close. “McRedhirt! Run for it! Through the emergency hatch!” he screamed, worried there might be more Goblins lurking nearby.
“AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” replied McRedshirt, running right past the hatch, “It was locked just a moment ago and I can’t find a path to it!”  The Goblins advanced on Lolor.
“Don’t want to play fair and fight me one on one? Oh right, you are Goblins. You know nothing of honor. Well, it’s your funeral anyhow,” muttered Lolor, bashing the first Goblin in the legs while dodging a clumsy strike from a second. Quickly reversing into a backhand bash to the body of the first Goblin as he spun around, Lolor deflected an attack from the third with his shield, continuing his spin into a devastating blow to the head of a fourth, spattering brains all over his nice new steel crossbow. He rounded up at the first, who was clutching his leg, and bashed him in the arm, then in the guts, and finally in the head, getting more goblin brains on his crossbow. The leader struck down one of the two dogs trying to protect their master, the animal handler in the red shirt. Lolor entered a martial trance, and the world turned red. A goblin rushed him, and they tangled together on the ground. Lolor bit his toe off and spit it in his face, jumping up and away from an attack by another. Two down, four left, said the tiny part of his brain still capable of language. He bashed the Goblin writhing on the ground and holding his foot. The Goblin stopped writhing.
The two remaining foot soldiers looked to their leader. To his credit, the leader barely hesitated. Snarling, all three advanced, trying to circle behind the militia captain. That was when the second dog attacked, a furry brown whirlwind running in between the goblins, snapping at arms and legs. The dog grabbed a goblin by the hand and shook him. The leader and his henchman jumped at Lolor, one going high, one going low. The leader landed a lucky shot with his axe as Lolor deflected the attack of the other, tearing through Lolor’s steel mail and opening his arm to the bone. Stunned, Lolor collapsed to the ground. His martial training took over, and he dodged by reflex alone as he regained his wits. Once, twice, three times he rolled away from the goblins furious assault. Then he saw an opening, and leaped to his feet, inside the Goblin leader’s guard. He punched the leader in both hands, shattering the bones with his steel gauntlets. Seeing their leader drop his weapon, the final two Goblins broke and ran. Finding himself alone and disarmed, the leader did two. Pursued by dog and Dwarf, he rand for the nearby hills. Running after, Lolor remembered that his crossbow could be used for more than bashing. He shot the fleeing leader in the leg. The dog quickly tackled the now limping leader. Lolor suddenly remember that he was also carrying an axe, and cut the leader in two.
Looking back down the valley, he saw his squad forming up outside the salley port. He also saw McRedshirt, running BACK past the hatch again, screaming “They have crossbows! They have crossbows!”
Grimly looking down at his bleeding arm, Lolor Tusungdastot sighed. A militia captain’s work was never done. “Come on, boys, they are trying to rush the drawbridge! To the ramparts!”

Later that day, the Count came to congratulate Lolor at the hospital where he was getting his arm stitched up. “You know, Lolor, the deeper we mine that adamant, the closer we come to hell.”
“Yes, Lord,” said Lolor.
“But we can seal off the mines, you know. Hopefully our seals will hold as well as adamantine. Still, the poor fellow who is down there mining is done for. And you know how I hate to risk the lives of any of my people. That is why not everyone can have adamantine. We must not be greedy, and unleash hell upon the world.”
“Yes, Lord,” said Lolor, wondering where the Count was going with this.
“You know I used to be a simple miner, Lolor,” said the Count.
“You were never a simple miner. You founded this place.” replied Lolor.
“Yes, well, one does what one can. I think I might pull out the old pick, though. Just for old time’s sake. Can’t hurt to stay in practice. And I might just have a present for you when I get back. How do you feel about the color light blue?”

This is about how things went down. I had sent a guy out to replace a kitten I had forgotten to replace after the last raid, and I foolishly rearranged my military right then, because the last piece of adamantine armor had just been forged. I rearranged the squads, removing everyone from their squad and putting them in a more appropriate, specialized squad. Only the militia captains didn’t get rearranged. Only one was awake. The fight scene is taken right from the reports. I thought Lolor was done for. I thought McRedshirt was done for (he really was wearing a red shirt!) I thought both the dogs and the kitten were done for. Well, we lost one dog. One dog got a real name, earning it without any war training! Lolor was just a whirlwind of death. He finished off three and chased the fourth to the edge of the map. If the gobbo xbowmen had gone for him and the three guys of his squad who had formed up, it would have been a slaughter, instead they rushed the bridge and fell into the trapped outer refuse courtyard below. In this game, skill really matters. Training pays off. Keeping your militia out of harm’s way until they can handle themselves is crucial. Let them fight disarmed but still armored goblins you catch in your traps.

Endok and the Gorillas

So there I was, working on my latest fort. I’d just finished the final touches on the parapets and catwalks and was working on building the second layer to the outer walls. A happy troop of gorillas was passing by, and a lowly stone engraver, Endok, was out smoothing over some boulders for the main road.

Endok did not care for gorillas, it seems.

Endok did not care for them, at all.

Endok, for whatever inextricable reason, had decided to bring a steel crossbow and quiver of bolts that day. She’d never shot before, never hunted, never trained, never took the life of any living thing. She was as pacifistic as they come.

But she did not like gorillas.

There she sat, chiseling away at that boulder when in the corner of her eye she saw it, those bastard silverbacked beasts. A fury of rage, a stretch of bowstring,

PLUNG

Through the eye, one gorilla down

PLUNG PLUNG

Two more down, half the troop scattered in fear, two of them charged Endok full force.

PLUNG

Make that one. The other reached her and swiped —

PLUNG

Dazed, the Gorilla stumbled back. Endok’s mind flashed back to those days in the Mountainhome, she lived in a small cave her father had dug by hand. It was in the deep jungles in soft loam soil, dug deep into the shale bedrock beneath. Ever since her mother had died, it was just her and Dad… Until that fateful Thursday, 5th granite, 184, when the Gorillas came.

WOOSH

Endok ducks under a mighty swing from the great ape’s hand, landing a solid upper cut with the front of her crossbow. The beast is down, reeling from the hit. Endok slowly loads one last round.


When the gorillas came, it was with terrible raucous noise, the great thrashing of the waterfalls that lay on the other side of the mountainhome would have been drowned out by the whoops and hollers of the gorillas, and the other animals fleeing from them. Daddy told her to wait inside, so wait she did, in her room on the bottom floor, just a few feet of earth between her and the magma channels that led to the mountainhome and gave her father the ability to work. He had been a metalcrafter, building intricate and tiny things that only a dwarf could appreciate. Little metal things, pretty things which Endok loved, but no more pretty things for Endok. For hours she waited for her father, who had taken that old copper axe that hung over the mantle out, he went to protect the mountainhome from the raiding gorillas. He was not a novice, he had served in the Dwarven Guard for many years, devoting his weekends to train for the event of a goblin or elven siege. “Those good-fer-nuthin’ elfs,” he’d say to Endok, “all they ever got is wood for wood, never ‘preciate true metalcraft…” Endok would not see her father again.Some two days after the hollers quieted, a knock came to the door, Endok had not eaten in those days, didn’t drink, didn’t sleep.

“Hello? Anyone here?”, said a voice, hollow and distant to Endok.

“Hello?”

“I– I’m”, Endok struggled for words, “I’m here.”

“Ma’am, my name is Urist Macbaddenews, and I’m afraid I have something for you, it’s not a pleasant responsibility, but…”, he handed her a bloodstained war axe, made of Copper, the same one that fit where the dustless outline lay above the mantle. She choked back a tear and looked up, he pointed her towards a box that lay outside. She knew what was inside, she knew it was her father.

“Now, we are happy to take him to be buried in the grand halls of the mountainhome, he was a brave dwarf, and killed many of those beasts before he was finally killed. The King himself has expressed his desire for him to lie-in-state with the other heroes who fell, but I suggested that we ask the families first, and our Gracious King agreed with my small suggestion. Now Ma’am, would you like your father to be buried there? Or do you have some family plot you’d perhaps prefer? Speaking of… where’s your mom, miss?”

Endok sobbed, she managed to say that her mother had died, and that her father should be buried next to her, in the tomb in the lowest level of the house. Endok left that day for a new home, she vowed never to build a metal thing, never to return, to build a new life somewhere where no gorilla would ever dare go.


PLUNG

WOOSH

Endok’s bolt flew past the ear of the great gorilla. She saw him, lying there helpless, and she saw his little son, off 10 or 20 feet away. She looked at him, and in that instant they knew each others’ life story. She knew his mate had died. Maybe Endok killed her; who knows. She knew that that little gorilla had nothing else, she knew she had become the monster that killed her father, but she wouldn’t let that happen to her.

She fell into a deep depression after that, and less than two weeks later, Endok was found dead, with the tiniest metal thing in her hands, a little gorilla made of silver and menacing with spikes of obsidian. The tiniest metal thing, and an old copper war axe sticking out of her chest.


 

This, of course, is somewhat embellished, but all the (non-flashback) events basically happened. A Engraver named Endok randomly decided to carry around a Steel crossbow and bolts, picked a fight with a passing troop of gorillas, killed 5 of them, spared one (she missed from 1 tile away, no kidding), walked back, fell into a melancholy and killed herself after retrieving a metal trinket from the stockpile and a copper war axe. I have no idea what sequence of events led to this, I wish I recorded the game, but oh my god, greatest thing ever.

Written by Jfredett.